When I tell people I grew up in Chuuk (or Truk, as it was formerly called), I get mostly blank stares. I go on to explain that Chuuk is an island-chain in Micronesia. More blank stares, with perhaps an audible mumble of recognition. At that point I explain that Micronesia is a large area in the Central Pacific Ocean with hundreds of islands, and that Chuuk is almost exactly halfway between the Hawaiian islands and the Philippines. Now we are connecting!
When I was a young girl in the mid-1970’s, my parents and I went to live in the Chuuk Islands as missionaries, leaving behind my four grown siblings and their families, two sets of grandparents—and the only life i had ever known—in the United States. My life was never the same!
I spent the rest of my childhood and teenage years plodding the sandy trails of my beautiful islands, fishing in the aqua seas, embracing the culture, falling in love with the people...and learning to speak this poetically astounding language!
To my dismay Cholera ended up ravaging the Chuuk Islands in the mid-1980's and we were forced to evacuate.
I had not wanted to leave. With every fiber of my being I had not wanted to leave!!
For years I lived with the pain of what was left behind. My memories haunted me. I struggled to understand. What had it all been for? For what purpose had I gone there? And why had life pulled me away?
I could hear my Chuukese grandfather's voice. I could still smell the thatch of the open-air meeting house and see his crinkly old eyes. “One day you will run and fly away like the wind from me, yes?” he had said to me, teasing. “You will have no more need to come sit by my side and watch the canoe-makers and hear my island stories and tales.”
I had given him my word that I would never leave. I had made a promise I couldn’t keep. “Papa Chinap,” I had assured him, “I will still come to you always, even when the canoe is finished. I will never fly away like the wind...”
But I had flown away. I had left him. I had left all of them—and it felt so wrong. So unfinished.
After my return to America, I got married, had children, eventually pursued my education, and got involved in many different outreaches and causes. Yet, always, like an ever-changing tide, the life I had lived would wash in and out of my heart—leaving pools of yearning. It became agony for me.
This "calling" began to nudge me—no, compel me—to seek out ways to actively impact and be an integral part of the future of the Chuuk islands. I began branching out with various organizations to help promote and provide better education, programs and awareness among the indigenous Pacific Islanders. I visited the Micronesian embassy and began meeting on a regular basis with staff members from the Federated States of Micronesia.
After the advent of the internet, I started a blog and created a webpage on language purity, island culture and customs.
In 2009, I finally fulfilled my longtime goal of becoming a freelance medical and court-approved interpreter/translator for the Chuukese language, serving immigrants residing within the United States and beyond. To date I serve in more than 35 states and 8+ countries, as well as working for/with an ever-growing number of companies and agencies.
I am honored to serve the Micronesian people here in the U.S. and abroad--in every way and in every capacity I can. It is my life's mission to support and encourage my adopted "family" as they navigate this vast new world—just as they had done for me in my youth when I made their land my home.
Thank you for being a part of my story.
Yours in Service,
MICRONESIA IS IN THE HOUSE…at our 36th Pacific Fun Day Annual Festival - MD!! (8/21/2021) Beautiful dancing performed by my amazing daughters (wow!) and me on the ukulele singing an original song, “Tongen Sangkumi” by the late Kaniki, Chuukese/Pohnpeiian Minstrel (circa 1981)!! RIP my friend, Kaniki.
**DISCLAIMER: Although our song (and clothing) are Micronesian, our dance is Polynesian. I was raised in Chuuk….my daughters weren’t. So we decided to bring unity and do a performance that brought the Pacific Island cultures together, incorporating a very old Chuukese Field Day tune…merged with my daughters’ dance choreography. No offense intended—only respect and love￼!!
"Tongen Sangkumi mi penges fan mwari
Mi wewe ngeni emon ketinas…
Ngang upwe ne angeiano manauei
Pokiten fan itomw….."